September 12, 2016

McElwain 'nervous' about Callaway injury

Antonio Callaway's status for Saturday's night game against North Texas is up in the air.

UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday that the sophomore is being held out of practice today and could have limited reps for the rest of the week.

"I'm a little nervous about with his leg," McElwain said. "We'll see how that plays out as it goes on."

Callaway injured his quad late during the Gators' 45-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday. Despite the injury, the sophomore and former Booker T. Washington standout still had a career game, posting a career-best 129 receiving yards on five catches. His 78-yard catch-and-run over the middle on a deep pass from quarterback Luke Del Rio in the second quarter highlighting the outing.

Should Callaway not play against North Texas on Saturday, that will put a heavier burden on junior Brandon Powell. It also leaves room for increased reps from the rest of the wide receiver corps, including junior C.J. Worton and freshmen Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond. 

Even though the Gators are facing a bottom feeder Mean Green team that went 1-11 last year, McElwain said he isn't going to change how he handles Callaway's injury.

"Once you're cautious, that’s when you run into problems and that goes for anything you do in life," McElwain said. "You can't go into anything being cautious because as soon as that happens that’s when bad play happens that’s when you play."

September 11, 2016

Gators back in AP Poll at No. 23

Following Florida's 45-7 blowout of Kentucky to open Southeastern Conference play, the Gators re-entered the Associated Press' top-25 poll.

UF checked in at No. 23 in the poll, released Sunday afternoon.

Alabama once again held down the top spot in the poll, with Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson rounding out the top five spots.

The Gators climbed back into the poll after claiming their 30th straight win against the Wildcats on Saturday -- the longest active uninterrupted streak in Division I football.

UF totaled 564 yards of offense and forced four turnovers on defense. The Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) had a shutout until the final five minutes of the game.

The SEC leads the way in the poll with eight representatives. However, the top-ranked Crimson Tide is the only school from the conference in the top 10. In addition to Alabama and Florida, the SEC representatives in the top 25 are No. 15 Tennessee, No. 16 Georgia, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 20 LSU and No. 24 Arkansas.

Florida closes out a three-game homestand to start the season on Saturday when it faces North Texas. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

The full top 25 list is below (first place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (56)

2.) Florida State (4)

3.) Ohio State

4.) Michigan (1)

5.) Clemson

6.) Houston

7.) Stanford

8.) Washington

9.) Wisconsin

10.) Louisville

11.) Texas

12.) Michigan State

13.) Iowa

14.) Oklahoma

15.) Tennessee

16.) Georgia

17.) Texas A&M

18.) Notre Dame

19.) Ole Miss

20.) LSU

21.) Baylor

22.) Oregon

23.) Florida

24.) Arkansas

25.) Miami

September 07, 2016

Wednesday UF notes: Luke Del Rio progression, injury updates and more

Some quick hit UF football notes from Wednesday

  • UF coach Jim McElwain said on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference that he felt starting quarterback Luke Del Rio “did pretty darn good” in his first career start on Saturday against UMass. A redshirt sophomore, Del Rio threw for 256 yards and a pair of touchdown on 29-for-44 passing. Del Rio was the only SEC QB to complete 65 percent of his passes, throw for 250-plus yards, two touchdowns and zero interception in college football's opening week. “I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how he progresses,” McElwain said.
  • McElwain has embraced the opportunity to have Steve Spurrier working in the same building as him. With Spurrier, the former Heisman trophy-winning quarterback and national championship-winning coach, back in the building where he put Gators football on the map, McElwain has taken the chance to pick his brain. “Just being able to visit with him just about things that come up, with as many years as he sat in this chair, the different ways he might have approached (game preparation) ... has really been fun,” McElwain said.
  • Junior wide receiver and South Dade High alum C.J. Worton practiced and repped with the first team during the open portion of practice on Wednesday. He missed UF’s season opener with a high-ankle sprain he sustained during a mid-August practice. "He'll roll like those other guys did last week,” McElwain said. “They all played pretty much the same amount of plays. It just adds to that rotation. It picks up where obviously without Dre [Massey] going, there's some more snaps there that we can take some reps off of those other guys.”
  • Defensive back Duke Dawson (shoulder) and linebacker Daniel McMillian (high ankle sprain) were also full participants in practice.
  • UF announced it will host McElwain’s alma mater Eastern Washington during the 2020 season. This is the first nonconference game the Gators have announced for that season outside of the annual Florida-Florida State game. While Eastern Washington is a Football Championship Subdivision team, the Eagles are no pushover. They defeated Washington State of the Pac-12 45-42 on Saturday and defeated Oregon State 49-46 during the opening weekend of the 2013 season, “It’s an opportunity to get them some more exposure,” McElwain said. “We’re going to have to lace it up.”

September 06, 2016

Gators drop out of AP top 25

Even with a season-opening 24-7 win over UMass, the Florida Gators couldn’t hold their spot as one of the top 25 teams in the country.

The Gators, ranked as the Associated Press' preseason No. 25 team, dropped outside of the top 25 in this week’s rendition of the poll, released on Tuesday afternoon.

Alabama maintained hold of the No. 1 spot after its 52-6 rout of USC on Saturday. Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan round out the top five.

The SEC, following an overall lackluster opening week, has six teams in the top 25 (Alabama, No. 9 Georgia, No. 17 Tennessee, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 20 Texas A&M, No. 21 LSU) and saw three of its conference members fall from their position in last week’s poll.

The conference went 7-7 in Week 1 with just one intraconference game (South Carolina/Vanderbilt).

Despite dropping out of the AP poll, the Gators held firm at No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

 

The full AP top 25 ranking is below (first place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (54)

2.) Clemson (2)

3.) Florida State (4)

4.) Ohio State

5.) Michigan (1)

6.) Houston

7.) Stanford

8.) Washington

9.) Georgia

10.) Wisconsin

11.) Texas

12.) Michigan State

13.) Louisville

14.) Oklahoma

15.) TCU

16.) Iowa

17.) Tennessee

18.) Notre Dame

19.) Ole Miss

20.) Texas A&M

21.) LSU

22.) Oklahoma State

23.) Baylor

24.) Oregon

25.) Miami

September 05, 2016

JUCO transfer wide receiver Dre Massey out for season

UF wide receiver Dre Massey suffered a season-ending knee injury during Florida's 24-7 season-opening win against UMass on Saturday.

Coach Jim McElwain said Massey will have surgery once the swelling subsides.

“There’s obviously a disappointment anytime something like that happens," McElwain said Monday. "And yet, the beautiful thing about teammates, family is they’re there to support, elevate, pick him up. ...  know it was disappointing for him, and yet he’s got a lot of ball in front of him. He’ll get this thing handled. He’s a guy that will work at the rehab piece."

Massey suffered the injury on the opening kickoff, but managed to play through the first half with the weak right knee. He did not record a catch in the game.

"That showed his toughness and his want to do what he can for this football team," McElwain said.

McElwain was hoping that Massey, a versatile 5-9, 180 pound receiver who transferred to UF from Holmes (Miss.) Community College, would help complement receivers Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell to bring energy back to Florida's offense, which has struggled over the past five years.

With Massey sidelined and the Gators opening Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky on Saturday, UF will rely on a quartet of freshmen to help Callaway and Powell in the passing game. First-year receivers Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain had a respectable season opener, combining for seven catches and 49 yards.

Fellow freshmen Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells were suspended for Saturday's win because of an offseason arrest after shooting BB guns at a UF residence hall. They still face felony charges for the crime. McElwain said they will both rejoin the team for this weekend's SEC opener.

Junior C.J. Worton, who has been hampered with a high ankle sprain, also has a chance to return to the field this weekend, McElwain said.

In other UF football news from Monday:

  • Starting outside linebacker Daniel McMillian sprained his ankle during the season opener. His status for the foreseeable future is up in the air. If McMillian is sidelined, redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson or true freshman Jeremiah Moon could slide in and start alongside Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. Johnson, who transitioned from safety to linebacker this offseason, had a strong spring camp. Moon has also turned heads since enrolling in August.
  • Cornerback Jalen Tabor and tight end C'yontai Lewis return from their one-game suspensions this week. Tabor is listed as a starting outside corner opposite Quincy Wilson. Lewis is listed alongside DeAndre Goolsby as the possible starter at tight end. "Like I said, they’re great players and great people and care a lot about this team, care a lot about how they can affect the people around them," McElwain said. "We need their energy."
  • Quarterback Luke Del Rio said he plans to graduate in December with a degree in family, youth and community sciences. Even though he's listed as a redshirt sophomore, Del Rio is in his fourth year of college (one at Alabama, one at Oregon State, two at UF).When asked what he plans to do after graduating, Del Rio responded: "Hopefully get a Masters, I don’t know what in yet, but hopefully get a Masters. That is the plan."

September 04, 2016

Three Takeaways from Florida's 24-7 season-opening win over UMass

No. 25 Florida used a late offensive outburst to take a 24-7 season-opening win over Massachusetts. It wasn’t the prettiest of sights, but here are three things Gator fans can take away from the game.

1.) Even Steve Spurrier’s presence couldn’t help the Gators make offensive plays

The Gators had 77 plays on offense Saturday night.

Only three ended up going for at least 20 yards.

On the night where UF honored offensive mastermind Steve Spurrier and, Florida was tried and true to its ways from the past five years and struggled to be explosive on offense against UMass.

"When you try to force [explosive plays], that’s when you turn the ball over, that’s when you get behind," said quarterback Luke Del Rio, who averaged 8.8 yards per completion in his first collegiate start. "Trying to make plays, that doesn’t work. It might work every now and then, but you’re going to lose more times than you win.”

Del Rio ended up settling for screens and checkdowns for most of the game. 

Some of that was by design. Other times it was because the pocket collapsed and he needed to make a play. The rare attempts for long passes were either overthrown or dropped.

The running backs averaged 3.7 yards per carry, with just one of Florida’s 29 carries going for double digits.

The slow and steady method worked Saturday, but the Gators 

“We’ve gotta get ‘em,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We dropped a couple. … That’s something we’ve got to get a little bit better at, obviously. Like I said, this will be a big week for us in preparation for this game against an SEC opponent that probably thinks they’ll win.”

2.) The Gators have a kicker again

For three years, UF fans winced each time Austin Hardin stepped out to attempt a field goal. And with good reason, too. Hardin’s three-year career ended with him making 16 of his 36 tries (44.4-percent clip). Last year alone, Hardin missed nine of his 14 field goal tries and an almost unheard of five extra-point attempts.

Enter Eddy Pineiro.

The former soccer standout at Miami Sunset who never attempted a field goal in a live game easily made all three of his field goals on Saturday, tries from 40, 49 and 48 yards.

“This is a dream come true, I’ve worked my butt off,” Pineiro said. “Whoever says they don’t get butterflies or any emotions are a complete liar.”

After each kick sailed through the uprights, the crowd roared. Fans chanted his name each time he stepped up for a kickoff (once he realized which side of the field he needed to be on).

And he did enough to keep the game in Florida's favor.

"It’s always nice to have a reliable kicker and we’re really proud of what he’s done," Del Rio said. "He came in here and he earned the spot. We put him in some pressure situations in camp and he delivered, so we’re proud of him.”

3.) UF realized just how much it needs Jalen Tabor

With All-SEC corner Jalen Tabor suspended for Saturday's game, McElwain had the opportunity to give other players additional reps.

When Duke Dawson exited in the first quarter with an arm injury, UF's secondary depth slowly began to crumble.

It showed.

Sophomore Chris Williamson was burned twice, once on a 24-yard completion on fourth and 14 to end the first quarter and again on a 53-yard catch-and-run from Andy Isabella one drive later.

In the second half, UMass quarterback Ross Comis found Isabella on a slant route that turned into a 30-yard gain.

With Dawson indefinitely sidelined, the Gators need all the help in the secondary that they can get. 

That starts with getting their preseason All-American back on the field to pair with junior Quincy Wilson on the outside and safety Marcus Maye.

"It’s going to be huge," linebacker Jarrad Davis said about Tabor's return. "It’s going to help us with the pass rush a lot, he’s going to be back there locking guys down like he always does and we’re going to have a lot more numbers, be able to rotate guys in and out.”

 

August 29, 2016

Breaking down Florida's Week 1 depth chart

The 25th-ranked Florida Gators on Monday released their depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against UMass. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the team heading into Week 1:

QUARTERBACK

Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio is the starter and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby is his backup. This was to be expected. UF’s scholarship freshmen – Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask – are still battling for the No. 3 spot. UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday that he hopes to give both reps early in the season, if possible. “Obviously we have to have an established third at some point,” McElwain said. “We'll kind of see where it goes from there. We haven't made a definitive decision there on that and yet that's something that we need to look down the road at, no doubt about it."

RUNNING BACK

The starting spot is still up for grabs. On the depth chart, UF has the No. 1 back listed as either sophomore Jordan Scarlett OR junior college transfer Mark Thompson OR sophomore Jordan Cronkrite, with redshirt senior Mark Herndon and true freshman Lamical Perine at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Cronkrite looked to be the frontrunner during the limited portion of practice the media is allowed to see, but he was “banged up” early last week and missed a pair of practices, allowing Scarlett and Thompson the opportunity to gain traction in the battle. During the Gators’ media day earlier in the month, McElwain viewed the running back group as “being as strong as anything on our football team.” All five have an opportunity to receive playing time in the early going of the season before McElwain decides whether to go with a feature back or use a by-committee approach.

WIDE RECEIVER

The Gators have junior Brandon Powell and sophomore Antonio Callaway lined up as the starting outside receivers and junior college transfer Dre Massey as the starter in the slot. This is intriguing, as all three provide versatility and speed to the field. However, what they bring in versatility, they lack in size (Callaway is the biggest of the three at 5-11 and 197 pounds). Behind them are the quartet of senior Ahmad Fulwood, junior C.J. Worton and freshmen Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain. Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells -- another pair of freshmen -- are suspended for the season opener and therefore not on the depth chart.

TIGHT END

With redshirt sophomore C’yontai Lewis suspended, junior DeAndre Goolsby has sole possession of the starting spot for Saturday. He’s the only eligible tight end with valuable playing experience (21 games, six starts). Behind Goolsby are redshirt sophomore Moral Stephens and true sophomore Camrin Knight, a pair which has shown flashes throughout camp but will likely be relegated to spot roles during the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The starting five from left to right are as expected: Junior David Sharpe, sophomore Martez Ivey, redshirt junior Cam Dillard, sophomore Tyler Jordan and sophomore Fred Johnson. They are the five most experienced offensive linemen McElwain has at his disposal. Backups to watch out for are redshirt sophomore tackle Kavaris Harkless and freshman Jaawan Taylor. Guard Antonio Riles is out for the year with a torn ACL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Florida’s listed starting defensive line Bryan Cox Jr. (end), senior Joey Ivie (nose tackle), redshirt junior Caleb Brantley (defensive tackle) and redshirt junior Jordan Sherit (end). Don’t expect the group to stop there, however. With redshirt sophomore Taven Bryan, sophomores CeCe Jefferson and Keivonnis Davis and redshirt freshman Jabari Zuninga in the mix, there will be a continuous battle for playing time along the defensive line. One surprising note: True freshman Antonneous Clayton, the No. 2 ranked defensive end and 26th-best player in the 2016 recruiting class according to 247sports, was not listed on the depth chart.

LINEBACKER

Florida’s lone three linebackers with playing experience top the chart. Senior Jarrad Davis is in the middle, redshirt junior Alex Anzalone is on the strong side and senior Daniel McMillian is starting on the weak side. Behind them are redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson (a high school quarterback turned safety turned linebacker) and a trio of true freshmen in David Reese, Jeremiah Moon and Vosean Joseph. Expect to see the freshmen receive a heavy dose of playing time early in order to get acclimated to college ball before SEC play.

DEFENSIVE BACK

With All-SEC corner Jalen Tabor suspended for the season opener, junior Duke Dawson is slated to take his place on the outside opposite Quincy Wilson. Dawson, however, is also listed as the starting nickel corner, so if the Gators go with three corners, JuCo transfer Joseph Putu could get some opportunities for extensive playing time. At safety, redshirt senior Marcus Maye has solidified one of the two spots. The second is still up for grabs with redshirt juniors Nick Washington and Marcus Maye vying for the position. Freshman corner Chauncey Gardner should see some playing time early in the year as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Basically, the starting spots are as expected here. Eddy Pineiro is the kicker. Johnny Townsend is the punter. The combination of Powell, Massey and Callaway will be used on kickoff and punt returns. One player to look out for: Kicker Jorge Powell, who McElwain said will be utilized for onside kicks.

Callaway cleared to play in Gators' season opener; two freshmen receivers suspended

UF coach Jim McElwain confirmed Monday that sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway has been cleared to play in the Gators' season opener on Saturday against UMass.

"He should be ready to go," McElwain said, adding he found out from the university on Friday that Callaway is able to play.

Callaway's status for Saturday was up in the air following a reported sexual assault accusation that had him suspended from the university from January until the start of the Summer B semester in late June. He was found not responsible in the incident during a Title IX hearing on Aug. 12. However, there was controversy surrounding the investigation because the hearing judge -- Jacksonville-based attorney Jake Schickel -- is a UF football and basketball booster. The complainant in the case boycotted the hearing because of it.

Callaway has been practicing with the team since the Gators opened camp in August, with most of his reps being with the first team.

Last season, Callaway set a UF freshman record for receiving yards (678). He also paced the Southeastern Conference in yards per catch (19.4) and recording six touchdowns (four receiving, two punt return.

“That guy’s a pretty good player," McElwain said, "so I think it should be pretty good." 

While Callaway will line up against the Minutemen, two freshmen receivers will not make their debuts on Saturday.

McElwain said Monday that Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells, will be suspended following their BB gun incident in the summer.

They join juniors Jalen Tabor, redshirt sophomore C'yontai Lewis as well as an unnamed senior as players suspended for Saturday's game.

August 25, 2016

Davis, Tabor headline Gators on Coaches' Preseason All-SEC teams

The Southeastern Conference released its Coaches' Preseason All-SEC football teams on Thursday.

Eight Gators made the cut.

Leading the pack for UF are senior linebacker Jarrad Davis and junior defensive back Jalen Tabor, the only two UF players who landed on the 28-member first-team.

Davis is the most experienced returning linebacker on Florida's roster. He finished last season second on the team with 98 tackles — including 11 behind the line of scrimmage — in 14 games. The 6-2, 238-pound linebacker also recorded seven quarterback hurries and 3.5 sacks.

Tabor, an outspoken cornerback, looks to pick up where he left off last season. He led the SEC and was 13th nationally last season with 18 defended passes (4 interceptions, 14 pass breakups). Tabor also recorded two pick-sixes.

Tabor, who was also named to ESPN's preseason All-America first-team, is suspended for Florida's season opener against UMass following a violation of team rules.

Offensive lineman Martez Ivey, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and punter Johnny Townsend earned second-team recognition, while offensive lineman David Sharpe and defensive backs Marcus Maye and Quincy Wilson landed third-team preseason accolades.

SEC West powerhouses Alabama and LSU led the conference with 13 representatives on the three preseason teams, with the Crimson Tide boasting an SEC-best seven first-team members.

 

August 23, 2016

Sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite headlines post-scrimmage injury report

Jordan Cronkrite, just like the rest of Florida's running back corps, has impressed second-year UF coach Jim McElwain throughout practice.

But for the next few days, the sophomore will be on the sideline while the rest of the group gets extra reps.

McElwain said Tuesday that Cronkrite was "banged up" during Friday night's scrimmage. He's expected to return to practice on Thursday, McElwain added.

A former standout at Miami's Westminster Christian, Cronkrite is viewed as the front-runner in a deep backfield for the starting running back job left vacant after Kelvin Taylor departed for the NFL.

Last season, Cronkrite finished with 157 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. He also had 89 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches, with his biggest game of his fledgling career coming against South Carolina (6 carries, 24 yards, touchdown; 2 catches, 49 yards, touchdown).

Some other notes from McElwain's press conference on Tuesday:

  • McElwain said the team had a lot of tempo during Friday night's scrimmage and had the opportunity to experiment with situational drills. He said Luke Del Rio -- who was named the starting quarterback one day prior to the scrimmage -- "had a little bounce and that was good to see." The one downside? The offense had three turnovers. “We kind of misjudged throws that were thrown into coverage rather than take what the defense gives us in two of those cases," McElwain said.
  • Wide receiver CJ Worton (foot) and offensive lineman Andrew Mike (undisclosed) are both being held out of practice for the time being. McElwain said he expects to have Worton back on the field at some point this week.
  • Offensive lineman Martez Ivey and linebacker Alex Anzalone, both of whom are limited during training camp as a precaution, have been "really good," McElwain said.
  • The Gators are practicing at night on Tuesday and Wednesday in an attempt to get acclimated to the team's early-season night games. UF's season opener against Massachusetts on Sept. 3 and its Sept. 17 matchup with North Texas are both slated for 7:30 p.m. starts.

 

August 21, 2016

Gators ranked No. 25 in AP preseason poll

For the first time since 2013, the Florida Gators will open the football season as a ranked team.

UF checked in at No. 25 in the Associated Press’ preseason Top-25 poll, released on Sunday.

Alabama, the defending national champions, took the top spot in the poll, with Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State and LSU rounding out the top five.

A poll-high six Southeastern Conference schools are in the AP’s preseason rankings, with Tennessee (No. 9), Ole Miss (No. 11) and Georgia (No. 18) also ranked to begin the season.

The Gators are coming off a 10-4 season in which they won the SEC East. They ended the year -- their first under head coach Jim McElwain -- with three straight losses.

UF opens the season on Sept. 3 against UMass at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. The Gators, also ranked No. 25 in the Amway coaches poll, will face four opponents in the AP’s preseason rankings during the regular season: Tennessee (Sept. 24), LSU (Oct. 8), Georgia (Oct. 29) and Florida State (Nov. 26).

Here is the full breakdown of the AP’s top 25 (first-place votes in parenthesis):

1.) Alabama (33)

2.) Clemson (16)

3.) Oklahoma (4)

4.) Florida State (5)

5.) LSU (1)

6.) Ohio State (1)

7.) Michigan (1)

8.) Stanford

9.) Tennessee

10.) Notre Dame

11.) Ole Miss

12.) Michigan State

13.) TCU

14.) Washington

15.) Houston

16.) UCLA

17.) Iowa

18.) Georgia

19.) Louisville

20.) USC

21.) Oklahoma State

22.) North Carolina

23.) Baylor

24.) Oregon

25.) Florida

August 18, 2016

Gators name Luke Del Rio starting quarterback

DSC_6485
Jim McElwain has found his quarterback.

And as has been expected since Florida’s spring game, it’s redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback and son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio will take the opening snap against Massachusetts on Sept. 3 when the Gators ring in the 2016 season. He’ll be the Gators eighth starting quarterback since Tim Tebow’s final season in 2009.

"Luke is going to work as the starter the rest of camp and start in the season opener barring any unforeseen development,'' McElwain said in a statement Thursday. "Our other quarterbacks remain in the plans and are ready to move forward and help the Gators any way they can."

Del Rio had been the frontrunner throughout all of spring camp despite splitting first-team reps with graduate transfer Austin Appleby.

The 6-1, 211-pound Del Rio, who came to UF from Oregon State via Alabama, shined in the Gators’ annual spring scrimmage, completing 10 of his 11 passes for 176 yards and two passing touchdowns.

Despite Del Rio’s success in the spring and through the early part of fall camp, McElwain kept the competition open, with Appleby and true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask also in the mix.

But in the end, it was Del Rio who took charge.

May 22, 2016

Florida claims SEC All-Sports Trophy for 26th time in 29 years

GAINESVILLE -- Florida did it again. 

For the ninth-straight year, the Gators won the SEC All-Sports title, sweeping the 2015-16 GateHouse Media men’s, women’s and overall divisions for the 15th-time in program history. 

“Throughout the season, Gator teams have competed among the nation’s best, as the Southeastern Conference is such a competitive league across all sports,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. 

“This sweep of the SEC All-Sports trophies shows the tremendous commitment and drive out student-athletes and coaches.”

Texas A&M finished second, while Georgia finished third, as scores are computed by taking the points earned in each sport and dividing them by the number of teams participating. Points are awarded based on the number of teams in each sport. 

UF, which has won the award 26 times in school history, captured conference titles in gymnastics, soccer, softball, men’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis this year. The Gators also picked up six SEC Athletes of the Year honors in 2015-16, too. 

Florida should only continue its overall dominance in the weeks to come, too, as the Gators have a number of top teams competing for conference and national titles led by the No. 1 women’s softball team. 

2015-16 SEC All-Sports Overall Standings

1. Florida (172.5 points)

2. Texas A&M (156 points)

3. Georgia (132.5 points)

4. Auburn (125 points)

5. Kentucky (118 points)

6. Alabama (105 points)

7. Arkansas (103 points)

8. Tennessee (97.5 points)

9. South Carolina (97 points)

10. Mississippi (89 points)

11. Missouri (88 points)

12. LSU (88 points)

13. Vanderbilt (62.5 points)

14. Mississippi State (61 points)

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 20, 2016

Golden Nugget: Florida's over/under win total set at eight

GAINESVILLE -- A year after surprisingly capturing the SEC East and winning 10 games, the Florida Gators are projected to fall back to earth a bit in 2016. 

The Golden Nugget released its annual college football win totals this week, and the Las Vegas sportsbook pegged the Gators’ over/under (-125) at eight wins. 

While Florida must replace a bevy of defensive talent (Vernon Hargreaves III, Keanu Neal, Jon Bullard and Alex McCalister are all off to the NFL) and still has lingering questions at quarterback and on the offensive line, eight wins is a very reasonable line considering the team's plush schedule next season.

Florida’s non-conference slate includes UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian (teams a combined 6-29 in 2015), with other likely wins coming against Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky. 

The Gators would only need to win one of their remaining tough games -- i.e. at Tennessee, at Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and at Florida State -- just to push. 

The Golden Nugget also released early lines for the first week of games, and UF opened as a 37-point favorite against UMass. The Minutemen were just 3-9 last season, losing to Notre Dame by 35 and Colorado by 34 in their lone two games against Power 5 foes. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 17, 2016

Gators ranked No. 21 in Athlon Sports preseason Top 25

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators checked in at No. 21 in Athlon Sports’ preseason Top 25, as the popular college football magazine is set to hit newsstands on May 24. 

The Gators were one of six SEC teams ranked, slotting behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 8 LSU, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 17 Georgia. Alabama and UT were picked to meet in the SEC Championship Game, with the Crimson Tide predicted to win the league.

On UF, Athlon Sports said …  

“The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.”

Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 

1. Alabama

2. Florida State

3. Ohio State

4. Clemson

5. Michigan 

6. Oklahoma 

7. Tennessee

8. Notre Dame

9. LSU

10. Ole Miss

11. Washington

12. Stanford

13. Michigan State

14. Baylor

15. UCLA

16. Houston

17. Georgia

18. TCU

19. Louisville 

20. Iowa

21. Florida

22. North Carolina

23. USC

24. Oregon

25. Oklahoma State

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 16, 2016

Roundup: Gators claim No. 1 seed, lax stunned in OT & more

GAINESVILLE -- Here’s an instant recap of Florida’s weekend in sports ...

* The No. 1 baseball team took 2 of 3 from No. 7 Vanderbilt, rebounding from Saturday's 5-0 loss with a series-clinching 10-6 win on Sunday. Freshman second baseman Decon Liput led Sunday's scoring onslaught with a three-run homer in the first inning, as the Gators totaled 13 hits -- tying their season-high in a conference game -- one day after mustering just three singles against Vandy ace Kyle Wright (complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts). 

Florida’s series win didn’t come without a cost though, as hot-hitting first baseman Peter Alonso fractured a bone in his hand on Friday and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and the SEC Tournament.

* Despite losing 2-1 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament semifinals Friday, the top-ranked Gators softball team was selected as the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed for the second-straight season. The two-time defending national champions will begin their title defense this weekend hosting the Gainesville Regional, needing to knockoff Florida Atlantic, Central Florida and Alabama State. 

* The No. 2 women’s lacrosse team was stunned in overtime against No. 11 Penn State, as the Nittany Lions upset the Gators 14-13 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators lost at home for just the second time this season, ending a dominant year where they won the Big East Championship and were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. 

"Certainly, nobody wants to lose at this point,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary told the school’s website. 

“I credit our senior class. They are such an amazing group of young women. What they have done with this team -- I credit them with their leadership and their love for their teammates. They brought us together and our team chemistry was second-to-none. In that locker room after the game there were a lot of sad faces, but those seniors stepped up, they had some incredible words of wisdom for the younger players. I can't say enough about them, they will be missed." 

* Both of Florida’s tennis teams advanced to the NCAA’s Round of 16, as the No. 1 women’s tennis team swept No. 25 Syracuse and will face No.15 Stanford in Tulsa, Okla. The Gators have won 18-straight matches since losing to the Cardinal in Stanford on Feb. 28. 

Meanwhile, the No. 9 men’s tennis team swept No. 17 South Florida, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last seven years. The Gators will take on SMU. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 12, 2016

Gators add former Va Tech guard Jalen Hudson

GAINESVILLE -- For the second time in as many days, Florida landed another guard off the transfer market. 

Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson picked UF over Texas on Wednesday, announcing his decision on Twitter. 

While the Gators have yet to confirm the transfer, Hudson is the second guard to commit to Mike White's program this week, joining College of Charleston graduate transfer Canyon Barry

Unlike Barry, Hudson must sit-out next season due to NCAA rules, but the 6-foot-5 guard will have two seasons of eligibility starting in 2017-18. As a sophomore, Hudson averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Hokies last year, shooting just 40.1 percent from the floor but a respectable 34.6 from behind-the-arc. He scored a season-high 28 points in Va. Tech's NIT win over Princeton. 

Hudson told ESPN.com he chose Florida over Texas because, “I believe in what Coach White is building. I think Florida gives me a great opportunity to perform at a high level, win at a high level and ultimately pursue my dreams of playing in the NBA.”

With the additions of Barry and Hudson, the Gators have now filled their 13 scholarship spots for 2016-17. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 10, 2016

Wide receiver Ryan Sousa transferring from Florida

GAINESVILLE -- Florida redshirt sophomore receiver Ryan Sousa is transferring from the program, announcing the move on Twitter late Monday afternoon.

The former three-star prospect from Lake Nona never recorded a catch at UF, playing in just two games in 2015. 

Despite UF's shaky receiver corps last season, Sousa, who was originally a Florida State commit, couldn’t ever crack the rotation. This spring, he struggled with drops during the open portions of practice and was buried further down the depth chart following the emergence of several early enrollees. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 09, 2016

Prized graduate transfer G Canyon Barry headed to UF

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Mike White landed an impact scorer off the transfer market Monday, as College of Charleston guard Canyon Barry is headed to UF. 

The 6-foot-6 swingman averaged 19.7 points a game last season and is the youngest son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry. 

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman first reported the news, saying Barry, who is immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, chose Florida over Kansas, Ole Miss and Miami, his father’s alma mater. 

Later, Barry and White confirmed the report on Twitter.

Injuries derailed Barry’s 2015-16 season for the Cougars, as the guard missed the final two months of the year with a shoulder injury. In just 13 games, Barry shot 37.6 percent from 3 and 84.5 percent from the charity stripe -- continuing his dad’s legacy of shooting free throws underhanded. 

The swingman should immediately bolster Florida’s shooting and depth next season. Barry is capable of playing multiple positions and is a career 34.4-percent from behind-the-arc. A 4.0 student, Barry plans to pursue a graduate degree in nuclear engineering.  

He explained his decision to transfer to UF in a statement Monday. 

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Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

May 06, 2016

UF's Jim McElwain assesses quarterbacks heading into offseason

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s four-headed battle at quarterback was the storyline of spring camp.

Luke Del Rio emerged as the frontrunner to start the Sept. 3 opener against UMass, but second-year coach Jim McElwain also walked away impressed by the play of graduate transfer Austin Appleby and early enrollees Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. 

The Gators ranked 86th nationally in passing last season (207.1 yards per game), yet after an encouraging spring by both the quarterbacks and the receivers, McElwain expects Florida’s offense to be much more explosive in 2016. 

“I’m really happy with [the quarterback] room and really happy with the arm talent in that room,” he said during Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference. 

“I look forward to being able to push the ball vertically down the field.”

In a rare bit of candor, McElwain then offered his assessment on what each quarterback needs to improve upon this offseason. 

Starting with Del Rio, McElwain said the redshirt sophomore must avoid “trying to do too much.”

“He needs to let the game kind of come to him, and I thought he did that in the spring game,” McElwain said. 

Late in the spring, Del Rio struggled with turnovers and accuracy issues. But then in the Orange & Blue Debut, the quarterback delivered a nearly flawless performance and heads into the summer with an edge in the competition. 

Although Appleby wasn’t perfect in the spring game, McElwain said the Purdue transfer mostly needs to work on “not being so hard on himself.”

Like Del Rio, Appleby had accuracy issues at time during camp, and according to Florida’s coach, the senior struggled shaking off poor plays. 

“He’s one of those perfectionists and sometimes he lets the negative play maybe impact the next one, rather than clap it off and move forward.”

As for the freshmen, McElwain said Franks, who threw three interceptions in the spring game and looks destined for a redshirt season, needs to gain “an understanding that not every play needs to be a home run.”

“Just take what the defense gives you,” McElwain said. 

McElwain’s message was even simpler for Trask, who emerged as an intriguing project after coming to UF as a little-known two-star project

“Kyle is a guy that just [needs to] continue understanding what we’re trying to accomplish,” McElwain said. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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